Baseball memories: One who didn't go
It wasn’t the time to think about yourself, or your career. Joining up was the decent and honorable thing to do.
Murry Franklin, gave up his Major League career, as did others, for a stint with America’s wartime Navy.
Photo courtesy of Dell Franklin
One who didn't go
Baseball stories by Murray Franklin as told to his son, Dell Franklin
Almost everybody in baseball who was young enough and able-bodied (hell we were professional athletes, cream of the crop) went off to war, or at least joined some branch of the military. It wasn’t the time to think about yourself, or your career. Joining up was the decent and honorable thing to do. You didn’t want anybody patting you on the back for it, even though you were giving up everything you’d worked for all your life. A pro ball player, he only has so many years, and here I was, 28, just finding my niche, a regular, in my prime, and I had to go, knowing I was going to lose my best years, the years I could finally make some money and establish myself, knowing the guys taking my place were either too old to go, or these guys who found a way to get out of it for their own good.
We had this young kid, about 21, 22, a big left-handed pitcher, Hal Newhauser, a real horse, with just about the best stuff in the league next to Feller, and he kept saying he wasn’t going, because he was of German ancestry and wasn’t going to kill his own people. Can you imagine that? And his mother supported him. He was a momma’s boy, spoiled, very arrogant and babyish, couldn’t stand to lose, or not get his way…I remember him tossing over the card table when he lost in cards…and then the big dummy went on radio in Detroit and popped off about how he wasn’t going, and ended up getting a medical deferment on some kind of phony heart condition.
A couple of our players were cleaning out their lockers and getting ready to check out and go into the service, and they bounced him around, “Birdie” Tebbetts really went after him, boxed him around, called him yellow, and believe me, there were a lot of us who wanted a piece of him.
I thought about him when I was overseas in the South Pacific, living the dog’s life, the heat so bad the ground cracked and you went a little crazy, and the malaria, the crotch-rot, and wondering if you were ever going to get out of this hell-hole; and you wonder about some of these poor slobs storming those beach heads, little guys from the end of the line, taking it on the nose for the rest of us doing the right thing, and you think about this big strapping kid back in the states, with his bad heart, having his biggest, best years, winning over 20 games, throwing more innings than anybody in the big leagues, making a reputation for himself, getting famous, a hero to kids an all star, making good money, even getting endorsements….
The fans, they forget, because they’re fickle, and later on all you hear about is Newhauser’s great years and his great stats, and he WAS a helluva pitcher, I admit, but as a man everybody in the game knew he was a horse’s ass, selfish, no guts, a guy who let the rest of us do the dirty work while he took the easy way out.
Sometimes in life it’s the things you don’t do that haunt you, but then sometimes you have guys like Newhauser who don’t know any better, and guys like that, well, you wouldn’t to change places with them for anything in the world, because at least you can get up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror. §
Dell Franklin is publisher of The Rogue Voice. Baseball Memories are drawn from a collection of stories about his father’s Major League baseball career. Dell can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Dell's "Baseball memories" here: